Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Mountains are More Magnificent on a Motorcycle

Ledak, Kashmir is surrounded by the Himalayan Mountain Range. As our plane drew closer to the Leh Airport we could see the snow capped mountains extend past our eyes could see.

Sankar Gompa
Leh is a beautiful old town set into a dessert valley surrounded by Himalayan mountains. Its best know for its royal palace perched on the top of a small mountain in the middle of the city. Its narrow windy streets are crowded with markets, donkeys and many cars.

Trying out the magnetic field

To better explore the area my friends and I rented three motor bikes. Its very cost efficient to rent a bike. Its only 1100 INR ($20) a day for a two person road bike. In Leh we visited the Sankar Gompa, which has an amazing view of the city of Leh. A gompa is a Buddhist monuments usually white and geometrical in design. They range in size and usually dot the mountains near spiritual places or monasteries. It was evening and very cold on the top of the hill. To climb up into the gompa you must remove your shoes, the marble beneath your feet is cold with just socks.

Prayer wheels in Alchi
The next day we set off on a day trip from Leh to Alchi (70km). On the way we passed Magnetic Hill which is said to be a place that "defies all laws of gravity". The sign instructs the driver to put his vehicle in the box marked on the street. It is literally in the middle of the highway where cars are zooming by.

We hopped on the bike and stopped in the box to see what would happen ... nothing. We sat three on one motorcycle in the middle of a dangerous mountain road for nothing.

We drove on toward Alchi, passing though many small towns, dirt roads, wooden bridges and monasteries on rocky hills. It took three grueling hours on bumpy dirt roads to reach the small monastery town of Alchi.

Alchi is known for its many small temples and long lines of prayer wheels. We arrived just in time for a Buddhist festival. We took off and put on our shoes multiple times to enter the small dark temples. To enter you must not only remove your shoes, but also duck into a small passageway and wait to allow your eyes to adjust to the dark chamber. The walls were lined with Buddha paintings and in the center was a statue where one could make offerings and pray.

Close to the temples is a small river that is fed by the large glaciers perched up on the mountains. The river was a beautiful green-blue color.

After exploring the town we headed back to Leh, trying the magnetic fields once again... still nothing.

Exploring the Leh Royal Palace
Upon arrival to Leh we visited the Leh Royal Palace which is a large deterioration empty stone building perched up on the mountain top. It was built by King Sengge Namgyal in the 17th century. When the Ledakhi royals were un-throned they left the nine-story building abandoned. Currently its a maze of empty rooms, wooden ladders, and dusty floors. Its fun to explore all the rooms and climb the many rickety old ladders. Its like a maze and the views from the balconies of the surrounding Leh city are amazing.

I recommend eating at Il Forno rooftop restaurant. Its a bitty chilly so bring a coat but their curries are amazing.

Shops and markets are much more expensive than Delhi but everything is said to be "Hand Made".

View from the Leh Royal Palace

1 comment:

  1. It sounds like that's the way to see the beauty of area.